No one should be under any illusion that the latest fighting in Gaza is anything but an episode in a much longer war between Israel and the Palestinians. Overt bouts of fighting come and go, but the war is permanent.
It is built into the very nature of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state. Israel is founded on the dispossession of the Palestinians—a process that continues with the spread of illegal Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank and around East Jerusalem.
The official Western policy of a two state solution assumes that Israeli “security” and Palestinian “self-determination” can be reconciled. But this is impossible. The existence of a dispossessed Palestinian population within and on the borders of Israel permanently threatens its security.
Despite the genocidal fantasies of the ultra-Zionist right, it is politically impossible for Israel to expel or exterminate the Palestinians. So instead, with the support of the United States, it seeks co-existence on its terms.
On the West Bank, this has worked out quite well. The “peace process” has put the Palestinian Authority in the hands of the venal and authoritarian secular nationalists of Fatah.
They can be relied on to stop any serious armed actions against Israel from the territories nominally under their control. The West Bank in any case remains in the grip of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
This has left the main forces of resistance bottled up in Gaza, which Hamas has dominated since it expelled Fatah in 2007. Hamas’s leaders might be willing to cut a deal with Israel, but they haven’t been offered the option.
Instead the IDF has conducted a series of offensives in 2008-9, 2012, and now 2014 to “mow the lawn”, ie limit the growth of Hamas’s military capabilities. This isn’t working out too well, despite the slaughter inflicted in the past few weeks.
As Nathan Thrall points out, “for the first time in decades, Israel is defending itself against an army that has penetrated the 1967 borders, by means of tunnels and naval incursions.
“Hamas rockets produced in Gaza can now reach all of Israel’s largest cities, including Haifa, and it has rocket-equipped drones. It was able to shut down Israel’s main airport for two days…Rockets from Gaza kept Israelis returning to shelters day after day, demonstrating the IDF’s inability to deal with the threat.”
Meanwhile, the butchery of Palestinian civilians has provoked protests all over the world.
These have been particularly impressive in Britain, where the secular left has developed a strong tradition of working with Muslim organisations.
Even invertebrates such as Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have woken up to the strength of the disgust at Israel.
Elsewhere probably the strongest reaction has been in Latin America, where five governments have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel. With Latin America’s shift leftwards, the old days when Israel could count on the backing of right-wing military regimes are long gone.
Meanwhile, Israel’s rulers’ hopes of it becoming a “normal” capitalist democracy are dead. While compulsory military service is a fading memory in the US and Europe, Israeli young men and women must serve long and increasingly dangerous years in the IDF.
The popular racism that is directed not just against Palestinians but also against African migrants may bind the mass of Israeli Jews to the state. But it makes Israel very different from the multicultural Western societies to which it aspires to belong.
And there’s no way out. The right wing of the Israeli cabinet is demanding that the IDF destroy Hamas. But even if this could be achieved, it would not end the struggle.
As it is, there must be many youngsters in Gaza eying the black flags of the Islamic state and thinking that maybe the ultra-Islamist jihadis have the answer.
Or rather there is no way out as long as Israel continues to exist as an exclusively Jewish state founded on the dispossession of the Palestinians. The only solution is a united Palestinian state where Arab and Jew can peacefully coexist.
This may seem a distant prospect, but this is a long war that will eventually wear down Israel’s strength.